The Supreme Court on Friday slammed the government for not cancelling the licence of Reliance Infocomm for illegally tapping the telephone of politician Amar Singh on the basis of forged orders.
"Why didn't you cancel the licence of the service provider? It's gross negligence. Either the service provider was doing this deliberately or because of its incompetence on the basis of a letter full of errors," said the apex court.
"There were gross errors in the letter on which the interception was done. The government should have cancelled the licence of the service provider per se," a bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said.
Reliance Infocomm is the group headed by Anil Ambani after the split between the Ambani brothers in July, 2005.
"That was in 2005, now it is 2011 and the service provider has been allowed to continue with its business. The government has not taken any action so far. It is a serious matter," the bench said.
Reliance Infocomm had intercepted Singh's telephone between October 22 and December 21, 2005 on the basis of two letters of the 'competent authority'. The letters had several grammatical errors and subsequently it was found that the signatures of officers were forged.
"The letters were from the senior police officer and home secretary, who is a senior IAS officer. The whole content should have been examined for public safety. It was such a serious matter. This type of order has been acted upon by the service provider. The citizens of this country have no safety. They are subjected to interception by unscrupulous service providers," the bench said.
Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium shared the concerns of the bench and said these are special powers which have to be exercised in the most extra-ordinary situations. The bench said, "How can a person act on such type of letters. How can you allow a service provider to continue?"
"The nation is the target of various activities over the years in various parts of the country. There are masters of forgery who can prepare such orders and place before service providers for intercepting phone calls. Is it not their duty to check with the government authority before intercepting," the bench said.
The bench also said that under these circumstances, even the phone number of the army chief can be intercepted and diverted to anti-national elements in foreign countries.
"Anybody's communication can be intercepted by the unscrupulous service provider. It is an extremely dangerous situation that is happening," the bench observed while criticising the government for its inaction.
"Can you see where things have reached? It has sunk so low. The government doesn't seem to have taken action in a serious matter. Why has the government not taken any action," the bench said, adding, "All of you are in league and the court is the soft target".
The bench said the service provider should have carefully gone into the order of requisition for intercepting the communication as doubts would have emerged instantly when there were 'gross grammatical' errors.
The court was hearing the petition filed by the former Samajwadi Party leader who had sought judicial inquiry into the illegal tapping of his telephone allegedly at the behest of his political rivals including the Congress.